Monthly Archives: August 2022

Tang Zhong Milk Bread Recipe

If you grow up in Asia, you probably prefer bread that has a soft and fluffy texture with a strong milky flavor. It really doesn’t matter if you grow up in Indonesia like me, or maybe in Malaysia, Singapore, or even in Japan or Korea, the bread we get from our bakery is pretty much a milk bread.

Or more specifically, this tang zhong milk bread, which is soft and fluffy and milky, and can stay like that for days stored in nothing but the plastic bag the bread comes in. I am happy to report that this recipe will give you that bread.

Ingredients to prepare tang zhong milk bread.

What is tang zhong?

If you have tried your hands with bread baking in the past, you know that as you increase the amount of water to the dough, you should get softer and fluffier bread. But there’s only so much water a typical bread dough can absorb before the dough becomes too wet to handle.

Tang zhong method is created to solve this exact problem, to trick the dough to absorb more liquid than it previously can, and thus leads to a softer, fluffier, and airier bread. And how does this technique do that?

The tang zhong technique calls for precooking a small amount of the flour and liquid (water/milk) from any yeast bread recipe to create a thick roux/slurry, and this roux/slurry is called a starter which will then be combined with the rest of the dough ingredients.

The chemistry reaction created by this roux/slurry allows the flour to absorb more liquid and hold onto that extra liquid during kneading and baking and well into the cooling process.

Basically, a tang zhong bread will have these beneficial properties:

1. The dough will be less sticky and easier to knead.

Despite the high water content, I can still knead tang zhong dough with hands. For comparison, a brioche dough also has a high water ratio, but it is such a big mess kneading brioche dough with hands compared to a tang zhong dough that I usually won’t even bother trying to do it with my hands.

2. Bread will rise higher.

Tang zhong bread usually will rise higher because more liquid equals more steam during the baking process.

3. The bread stays soft, moist, and fresh for days.

Also, because the roux/slurry can hold onto that extra liquid so much better than regular dough, tang zhong bread usually stays moist, soft, and fresh much longer compared to regular bread.

(1) Place flour, sugar, milk powder, instant yeast, and salt in a bowl. Make a well, and add egg, milk, and tang zhong. (2) Stir into a shaggy mass. (3) Knead until smooth, then add butter. (4) Knead until dough is soft and elastic.

(1) Place flour, sugar, milk powder, instant yeast, and salt in a bowl. Make a well, and add egg, milk, and tang zhong. (2) Stir into a shaggy mass. (3) Knead until smooth, then add butter. (4) Knead until dough is soft and elastic.

How to prepare tang zhong starter?

Tang zhong starter calls for cooking a small amount of flour and liquid into a thick roux/slurry. For this particular recipe, our starter is made from:

  • 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour, you can also use bread flour if you wish
  • 3 tablespoons of water
  • 3 tablespoons of milk

Simply whisk together all the ingredients in a small saucepot until smooth, and place the pot over low heat and continue whisking until a thick slurry is formed. This can take anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes. Then we need to remove the slurry to a small bowl to let it cool to room temperature before using it with the rest of our dough ingredients.

Tips: To save time, this is usually the first thing I do when preparing a tang zhong bread. While I let the starter cools to room temperature (you can stick the bowl in the fridge to speed up the process), I measure out the rest of the ingredients. 🙂

(1) Rest dough until volume is almost double. (2) Deflate, knead, and divide into 4 equal portions. (3) Roll each portion into a log, and arrange in a lightly greased loaf pan. (4) Proof until dough fills the pan.

(1) Rest dough until volume is almost double. (2) Deflate, knead, and divide into 4 equal portions. (3) Roll each portion into a log, and arrange in a lightly greased loaf pan. (4) Proof until dough fills the pan.

How to incorporate tang zhong starter into bread dough

Once your tang zhong starter is cooled to room temperature, we can start preparing our bread dough.

  1. Place flour (you can choose from 100% all-purpose flour, 100% bread flour, or 75% all-purpose/bread flour + 25% whole wheat flour), sugar, milk powder, instant yeast, and salt in a mixing bowl.
  2. Make a well, then add egg, milk, and cooled tang zhong starter into the flour mixture. Stir into a shaggy mass, then knead until smooth.
  3. Add room temperature unsalted butter, and knead again until the dough is soft and elastic.
  4. Gather the dough into a ball, place in a mixing bowl, and cover. Let the dough proof until the volume is almost doubled. This should take about 1 hour in a warm kitchen.

To shape the bread, do the following:

  1. Gently deflate the proofed dough, knead, and divide into 4 equal portions.
  2. Roll each portion (like a swiss-roll) into a tight log.
  3. Arrange all four logs in a lightly grease a 9″x5″ loaf pan.
  4. Cover the pan, and proof again until the dough fills the pan. About 1 hour in a warm kitchen.
Tang zhong milk bread, right out from the oven.

Tang zhong milk bread, right out from the oven.

Egg wash, baking, cooling, and storing a tang zhong bread

If you want to recreate the glossy look of typical Asian milk bread, you definitely need to apply egg wash prior to baking your bread. To prepare an egg wash, mix together one egg with one tablespoon of water/milk. Then brush the dough with this egg solution right before baking.

Every oven is slightly different, but it usually takes about 25 minutes to bake a perfect golden brown tang zhong milk bread in my oven. If you want to be really technical and specific, a digital thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf should register at least 88 Celsius (190 Fahrenheit).

To cool the bread properly, I let the bread cools in the pan for 10 minutes once out from the oven, then gently remove from the pan and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

A tang zhong bread is not fussy, once they are properly cooled, I cut them to slices and store in a Tupperware container on my kitchen counter. My bread never lasts any longer than 5 days from the day they are baked, but they always stay soft and fluffy up to day 5. But let’s be honest, they are softest and fluffiest when they are out from the oven. But compared to any other bread out there, you will swear that a day 3 tang zhong bread is really comparable to day 1 any other bread.

Tang zhong milk bread, tear into pieces, or cut into slices. Bread baked with a tang zhong method can remain soft and fluffy for up to five days.

Tang zhong milk bread, tear into pieces, or cut into slices. Bread baked with a tang zhong method can remain soft and fluffy for up to five days.

Bake other lovely yeast bread with this tang zhong dough

In this recipe, I show you how to make a standard loaf bread. But you can use the very same dough to bake other more elaborate bread! Use this tang zhong dough for the bread, and use the filling from these recipes:

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Bakso Ayam Recipe | Daily Cooking Quest

Bakso is definitely one of Indonesian most favorite food. Popular meatballs include bakso ayam (chicken meatballs), bakso sapi (beef meatballs), and bakso ikan (fish meatballs). The method of making meatballs are more or less the same, so I will just share how to make bakso ayam (chicken meatballs) and hopefully you can experiment with other meat of your choice.

Ingredients to make your own homemade bakso ayam (Indonesian chicken meatballs): chicken breast, garlic, salt, sugar, baking powder, tapioca starch, and oil.

What you need to make homemade bakso ayam

There isn’t a whole lot of ingredients needed when you want to make your own homemade bakso ayam. These are what I usually use in my bakso:

  • chicken breast meat, I ground it myself in my food processor, but you can buy ground chicken too
  • garlic, grated
  • salt
  • sugar
  • baking powder
  • tapioca starch or corn starch
  • oil
  • plenty of ice-cold water, best if you can use just melted ice cubes
Bakso ayam mixture, chilled and ready to be cooked.

Bakso ayam mixture, chilled and ready to be cooked.

Preparing ground chicken mixture for bakso ayam

It is very simple to prepare the ground chicken mixture for bakso ayam. The first secret to getting juicy and bouncy meatballs is the use of ice-cold water when mixing the ground chicken. Here’s what I do:

  1. Place ground chicken in a large mixing bowl, slowly add 5 tablespoons of ice-cold water, one tablespoon at a time, stirring until fully incorporated with each addition.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together grated garlic, salt, sugar, baking powder, tapioca starch (or corn starch), oil, and another 4 tablespoons of ice-cold water. Slowly pour this solution to the ground chicken, stir until fully incorporated.
  3. Wrap the bowl with a saran plastic, and chill the chicken mixture in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.

Now you have your ground chicken mixture that is ready to be turned into bakso ayam.

Bakso Ayam - Indonesian Chicken Meatballs

Bakso Ayam – Indonesian Chicken Meatballs

Boil ground chicken mixture to make bakso ayam

The second secret to creating juicy and bouncy bakso is cooking the meatballs in a pot of just barely simmering hot water. Here are the steps:

  1. Boil water in a large pot.
  2. Fill a large mixing bowl with ice-cold water and plenty of ice cubes. Make sure you have plenty of additional ice cubes to add to the mixing bowl as needed.
  3. Once the water boils, reduce the heat until water is just barely simmering. Drop tablespoonfuls of ground chicken mixture into the pot of hot water. Wait until meatballs float to the surface, then wait for another 30 seconds and then scoop out from hot water and plunge into the prepared mixing bowl filled with ice-cold water and ice cubes.
    TIPS: You may want to keep adding ice cubes as more and more cooked meatballs are added into the bowl to keep the temperature as cold as possible.

At this stage, our bakso ayam is fully cooked. You can enjoy them as is if you want, but my favorite way to enjoy my homemade bakso is to make sup bakso ayam (chicken meatballs soup).

Bakso Ayam - Indonesian Chicken Meatballs

Bakso Ayam – Indonesian Chicken Meatballs

Freezing bakso for longer storage

If you don’t plan to eat/use the bakso ayam straightaway, you can freeze them and use them later. I usually simply arrange the cooked bakso in a baking sheet and freeze until solid, then transfer the frozen meatballs into a freezer-safe ziplock bag.

Other than soup, I also love adding my own homemade bakso when I cook some ramen or other instant noodles. I simply add the frozen meatballs directly into my ramen/instant noodle soup and cook until they become soft again.

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Soto Betawi – Jakarta Beef Soup Recipe

Ingredients to prepare Indonesian soto betawi (Jakarta beef soup): beef stew cuts, honeycomb tripe, shalots, garlic, ginger, galangal, candlenuts, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and coconut milk.

Soto (traditional Indonesian soup) is widely enjoyed throughout Indonesia and every region has its own specialty soto. In Jakarta, the de facto soto is soto betawi, where it can be found everywhere, from side street food carts, hole-in-a-wall places, food courts in malls, upscale restaurants, all the way to five-star hotels.

Each place will have their own way of preparing soto betawi, with a highly guarded blend of secret spices, and each with fierce die-hard fans touting theirs has got be the one offering the most original and most delicious soto betawi.

What you need to prepare authentic Indonesian soto betawi

Living half-way across the globe means I need to find an excellent soto betawi recipe that can satisfy me and my hubby love for this soup. I am proud to say that we are extremely happy with this particular recipe. The soup tastes exactly like the one we used to have back in Indonesia.

Here are the ingredients I use for my soto betawi:

  • 1 kilogram beef shank (Indonesian: daging sengkel), or you can use other cuts that are suitable for stew or soup
  • 500 gram honeycomb tripe or other beef entrails like intestines, or increase the amount of beef if you want to omit this
  • 5 lemongrass
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves
  • 3 daun salam (Indonesian bay leaves), these are not the same as regular bay leaves, and is best to omit if you don’t have them
  • fresh milk
  • coconut milk
  • shallots
  • garlic
  • ginger
  • galangal
  • candlenuts, can be substituted with an equal amount of macadamia nuts
A bowl of soto betawi - Jakarta beef soup.

A bowl of soto betawi – Jakarta beef soup.

Cooking the soup

Before cooking the soup, the very first thing we do is to prepare the spice paste. You can use a food processor or a blender to do this. If you want a truly smooth paste, please add about 2 tablespoons of water along with all the spices, but it is also okay if the spice paste is not very smooth.

Once the spice paste is ready, you can do the following to cook the soup:

  1. Boil together beef, tripes, lemongrass, daun salam, fresh milk, and spice paste over medium-high heat in a soup pot. Once it boils, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until both the meat and tripe are tender. About 2 hours.
    TIPS: If using a pressure cooker, this step will only take 30 minutes.
  2. Remove the meat and tripe from the pot to cool. Once they are cool enough to handle, cut into bite-size pieces.
    Optional step: Strain the soup to remove any impurities and scums to get a clear soup, then return the strained soup to the soup pot.
  3. Return the pieces of meat and tripe into the soup pot, add water, coconut milk, salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for another 30 minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat, discard lemongrass and daun salam. Stir in kaffir lime leaves.
Garnishes for soto betawi: emping (melinjo crackers), fried potato cubes, bawang goreng (fried shallots), scallions, freshly squeezed lime juice, diced tomatoes, kecap manis (not shown), and acar (not shown).

Garnishes for soto betawi: emping (melinjo crackers), fried potato cubes, bawang goreng (fried shallots), scallions, freshly squeezed lime juice, diced tomatoes, kecap manis (not shown), and acar (not shown).

What to serve with soto betawi

Soto betawi is never just about the soup. It is not considered complete if you don’t serve the soup with its accompaniments. I usually prepare all of these while the soup is slowly simmering away:

  • make some acar (Indonesian pickle)
  • fry potato cubes
  • fry emping (melinjo crackers)
  • fry shallots (Indonesian: bawang goreng), you can use store-bought too
  • thinly slice some scallions
  • dice a couple of fresh tomatoes
  • cut a couple of limes into slices, so each person can add squeeze some fresh lime juice into the soup to suit their taste

We usually enjoy our soto betawi with some steamed white rice, all the above accompaniments, and a bottle of kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce).

Soto Betawi - Jakarta Beef Soup

Soto Betawi – Jakarta Beef Soup

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Pandan Coconut Butter Cake Recipe

The combination of pandan leaves and coconut milk immediately transports me back to Indonesia as I munch on this lovely pandan coconut butter cake accompanied by ice tea, jasmine of course, so I can pretend to have a wonderful tea time in the tropics.

The green color comes from pandan leaves, and before you ask, I have no idea what the equivalent would be if using pandan essence instead of 100% natural pandan extract from pandan leaves.

To ensure that your natural pandan extract looks as green as possible, try to use only the top part of pandan leaves where they are all green. But even if your cake doesn’t end up looking as green as you like, you still have the peace of mind that the coloring is all-natural instead of using green dye.

Ingredients to prepare pandan coconut butter cake.

Make pandan extract from fresh/frozen pandan leaves

Whenever I prepare a pandan dessert, I make my own pandan extract from fresh/frozen pandan leaves. To achieve the green color for this cake, I use:

  • 50 gram pandan leaves, use the green part of the leaves only
  • 100 ml water

Simply cut the leaves into thin strips with a pair of scissors and blend them with water in a blender until the leaves are completely pulverized. Squeeze to obtain about 75 ml of pandan extract.

If your leaves don’t look very green, you may want to increase the amount up to 75 grams just to be sure that you will get a green cake.

Can I use store-bought pandan extract?

If you cannot find fresh/frozen pandan leaves and want to use store-bought pandan extract instead, use 1 teaspoon of store-bought pandan extract and add 75 ml of either water, milk, or coconut milk.

If you need a recommendation for a store-bought pandan extract, then all I will say is that most Indonesians use Koepoe-Koepoe pandan extract, but seriously, the real deal is simply so much better.

Personally, I would rather bake a regular butter cake instead of using store-bought extract.

Step-by-step guide to prepare pandan coconut butter cake batter: (1) Make pandan extract. (2) Prepare meringue batter and pandan egg yolk batter. (3) Fold meringue into pandan egg yolk batter. (4) Pour batter into a greased and lined 8 inch square pan.

Step-by-step guide to prepare pandan coconut butter cake batter: (1) Make pandan extract. (2) Prepare meringue batter and pandan egg yolk batter. (3) Fold meringue into pandan egg yolk batter. (4) Pour batter into a greased and lined 8 inch square pan.

Prepare the batter

Once my pandan extract is ready, I usually do the following:

  1. Grease and line my 8-inch square cake pan. You can use either a 2″ tall pan or a 3″ tall pan. Be sure that your parchment paper overhangs the pan so you can easily grab the extra paper to remove the cake later on.
  2. Preheat the oven to 160 Celsius (320 Fahrenheit).
  3. Boil a pot of hot water to fill a baking tray for steam bake (bain-marie).

Once everything is done, it is time to prepare the cake batter:

  1. Meringue batter: Whisk egg whites until foamy, then add vinegar or cream of tartar and whisk until pale, then gradually add sugar and continue whisking until medium peak. Set this aside.
  2. Egg yolk batter: Beat egg yolks and sugar until pale, then add melted butter, coconut cream, and pandan extract. Beat until well mixed. Sift in cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat on lower speed just until well mixed.
  3. Fold the meringue into egg yolk batter in 3 batches. Use either a balloon whisk or a spatula for this.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Tap to remove air bubbles.
Wait until the cake is completely cooled before cutting into serving slices.

Wait until the cake is completely cooled before cutting into serving slices.

Baking the butter cake with a water bath method

For a super smooth cake, I usually bake the cake with a bain-marie method or a water bath method. Here is what I do:

  1. Position one oven rack at the bottom and one oven rack in the middle.
  2. Place a baking tray at the bottom and filled the tray with hot water.
  3. Place the cake pan at the middle rack.
  4. Bake until the cake is fully cooked and the top is golden brown. This usually takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Once the cake is done, remove from the oven and gently remove the cake by grabbing the overhanging parchment paper. Cool completely on a wire rack. Once the cake is completely cool, slice it into 9 to 16 squares. I usually do 16 squares since a butter cake can be quite rich. I hope you will love this cake as much as I do. 🙂

Pandan coconut butter cake.

Pandan coconut butter cake.

Other pandan recipes you may want to try

If you love pandan, whether the color, or the flavor, or both, you may want to give my other pandan recipes a try:

And again, if you love a good butter cake and you don’t have pandan leaves, please give my Mrs. Ng old fashioned butter cake recipe a try, I promise you won’t be disappointed. 🙂

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Cakwe – Chinese Crullers Recipe

Ingredients to prepare cakwe/you tiao/Chinese crullers: all-purpose flour, egg, milk, oil, water, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

The biggest drawback to living so far away from home is getting a hold of food I use to take for granted. Take this cakwe – Chinese crullers for instance, there are at least 2 shops within a hundred-meter radius just around my home in Indonesia selling them from early morning till late at night.

No one back home would think it is a necessity to even figure out how to make this. If you say you are frying up a batch of cakwe in your home, people will think that you must have too much time to spare.

Not so when you live halfway across the globe, suddenly there is a desperate need to scour and try every single recipe that you can grab, and tweak and experiment until you get the perfect result! And behold, I finally end up with this cakwe recipe that I am quite proud of 🙂

Step-by-step guide to shaping cakwe/Chinese crullers.

Step-by-step guide to shaping cakwe/Chinese crullers.

What is cakwe/you tiao/Chinese crullers and how to prepare this at home?

Cakwe/Chinese crullers are so common and popular in so many Asian countries. Because of this, it has so many different names: Chinese donuts/doughnuts, Chinese fried dough, Chinese fried bread sticks, and so on. We call them cakwe in Indonesia, which is basically Chinese Hokkien for fried cake!

From the name, you can probably guess that this is basically some sort of dough, shaped into sticks, and deep fried. And you will be 100% correct! 🙂

What will I need to make cakwe/you tiao at home?

You will only need some very basic and very common pantry ingredients to prepare Chinese crullers:

  • all-purpose flour (or bread flour)
  • egg
  • milk
  • baking soda
  • baking powder
  • salt
  • oil
  • water

Most cakwe recipe will call for bread flour, but you can get away with using all-purpose flour. If you are familiar with bread making, then you can tell that bread flour will give you a chewier and firmer result, while using all-purpose flour will make the bread softer and tenderer. What I am trying to say is, even if the only flour you are stocking at home is all-purpose, you will still get a good result! In fact, this batch is made with all-purpose flour, and not bread flour.

Glue two strips of dough into one cruller. I use the dull part of a butter knife, but you can use a chopstick too.

Glue two strips of dough into one cruller. I use the dull part of a butter knife, but you can use a chopstick too.

How do you shape cakwe/you tiao/Chinese crullers?

Prepare the dough

Before we can shape our cakwe, we need to prepare the dough by kneading all the ingredients together. The dough should not be sticky at all, and you want to knead until soft. Please start with 3 tablespoons of water and only increase the amount only if the dough is too dry.

Rest the dough

Shape the dough into roughly a rectangular shape, and wrap it with saran plastic and rest in the fridge for 4 hours. You must let the dough rest to relax the gluten. For the best result, I usually rest the dough overnight. Once you are ready to shape your crullers and fry them, you must remove the dough from the fridge and let it return to room temperature before continuing with the rest of the steps.

Shape the dough

Cakwe/Chinese crullers have a very distinct shape. And though it looks complicated, the steps are actually quite easy once we break it down:

  1. Roll the dough into a rectangle. I usually roll it to 12″ long, 6″ wide, with a thickness of 1/8″.
  2. Cut into 14 strips, each 6″ long.
  3. Stack 2 strips on top of one another. So we get a total of 7 stacks.
  4. Glue each stack by pressing the center of the two strips. You can use the dull part of a butter knife or a chopstick. You can refer to the photo below to clarify this particular step. 🙂
Cakwe/You Tiao/Chinese Crullers.

Cakwe/You Tiao/Chinese Crullers.

How do you fry cakwe/you tiao/Chinese crullers?

Chinese crullers are deep-fried dough, so we will need to prepare a pot of oil for deep frying. Traditionally, we deep fry crullers in a wok of at least 13″ diameter. You can also use a frying pan too, but make sure the depth is at least 2″ so you can fill the frying pan with at least 1″ of oil. Here are the steps:

  1. Fill your wok or frying pan with at least 1″ of oil, it is better if you can fill it with 2″ of oil.
  2. Heat the oil on medium heat. The oil is ready once it reaches 200 Celsius (400 Fahrenheit).
  3. Gently hold the two ends of each stack of shaped crullers and pull it slightly to fit the length of your wok/pan. For example, if you use a 10″ diameter frying pan, try to pull the dough to 9″ long. Then carefully, drop the dough into the hot oil.
  4. Use a pair of cooking chopsticks, or a pair of stainless steel tongs, roll the dough continuously for about 30 seconds or until the crullers become golden brown.
    Tips: You can fry two crullers at a time if you start to get the hang of it. But for beginners, stick to frying one piece at a time. 🙂
  5. Remove the fried crullers and set over a wire rack to reduce excess oil.
Cakwe/You Tiao/Chinese Crullers.

Cakwe/You Tiao/Chinese Crullers.

What do you eat with cakwe/you tiao/Chinese crullers?

There are so many ways to enjoy cakwe/Chinese crullers.

In Taiwan, a traditional breakfast is pretty much a combination of Chinese crullers and hot soy milk.

Thinly sliced Chinese crullers are a popular topping for Chinese congee, such as pork congee or fish congee. If you have eaten some congee/porridge from a Chinese dim sum before, you may already know about this.

There is a popular dim sum item called cheong fun that has you tiao/Chinese crullers as its filling. In that case, the crullers are used as an ingredient.

In Indonesia, we also enjoy our bubur ayam (Indonesian chicken congee) with plenty of cakwe/crullers topping.

Served with bak kut teh, a popular Chinese herbal soup in Malaysia and Singapore.

Served with Malaysian/Singaporean rojak buah, which is different from Indonesian rujak buah. I won’t stop you, though, if you want to add some cakwe to your rujak buah. 🙂

Also, people buy these simply to snack on. In Indonesia, there are cakwe sellers that hang around the street corner around the clock so people can drop in and buy several to eat with their afternoon tea or coffee, or as a light snack for supper before going to bed.

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Bean Curd, Ginkgo Nuts, and Barley Sweet Soup Recipe

A close-up shot of Chinese bean curd, ginkgo nuts, and barley sweet soup (腐竹白果薏米糖水).

Chinese, especially Cantonese cuisine, has so many delicious sweet/dessert soup. These soups are usually easy to prepare and super healthy. Some of these are vegan-friendly too, which is exactly the case for this bean curd, ginkgo nuts, and barley sweet soup (腐竹白果薏米糖水).

This soup has a special place in my life because my Mom prepared it for me on my wedding day. I’ll explain everything in detail so you will be able to replicate this dessert soup in your own home.

What you need to prepare Chinese bean curd, ginkgo nuts, and barley sweet soup: dried bean curd, fresh ginkgo nuts, dried pearl barley, egg, pandan leaves, and rock sugar.

What you need to prepare Chinese bean curd, ginkgo nuts, and barley sweet soup: dried bean curd, fresh ginkgo nuts, dried pearl barley, egg, pandan leaves, and rock sugar.

Chinese ingredients you will need to prepare this sweet soup

For this specific sweet soup, you will need dried bean curd sheet, gingko nuts, pearl barley/job’s tear barley, pandan leaves, rock sugar, and eggs.

Dried bean curd sheet (腐竹)

Dried bean curd is sold in two versions, stick version and sheet version. Please buy the sheet version.

You can still use the stick version, but since they are so much thicker compared to the sheets, you must soak bean curd sticks in cold water until soft before using, and the cooking time will most likely be longer to get to desired softness.

Prepping bean curd sheets: Wipe them gently with a clean kitchen cloth or give them a quick rinse under running water to remove any dirt, then break into smaller pieces before cooking.

Ginkgo nuts (白果)

I spotted two types of fresh ginkgo nuts being sold in my Asian market, a vacuum-packed version and fresh nuts still in their shells.

I use the vacuum-packed version, but you can use those still with shells. Just know that you will need to crack the shells and remove the brown skins from individual nut if you go with this version.

Prep: see the next section for a detailed explanation on how to prepare ginkgo nuts prior to cooking.

Pearl barley/job’s tear barley (薏米)

This is not the same as regular barley. Your Chinese market should have this. Or if you have a Japanese market near you, this is known as hato mugi in Japanese.

Prep: soak the barley for one hour in cold tap water prior to cooking.

Pandan leaves

You may spot them either fresh in the produce section, or frozen in the freezer section.

Prep: knot the leaves so they are easy to remove once cooked.

Rock sugar

All traditional Chinese sweet soup is sweetened with rock sugar. You can use regular sugar, brown sugar, or even honey/maple syrup if you wish.

How to prepare ginkgo nuts.

How to prepare ginkgo nuts.

Preparing ginkgo nuts

Ginkgo nuts are technically not nuts, but rather, seeds of the ginkgo tree. They have tough white shells and need to be cracked to reveal the yellow meat inside. To me, they look like a tiny rugby ball or American football, which is quite cute. 🙂

The yellow meat contains a small seed-like core, which is super bitter if not removed. To remove the core, please do the followings:

  1. Cut each ginkgo seed in halves lengthwise.
  2. If you spot a core, simply remove it. The reason I said “if” is because not 100% of the yellow seeds will have cores in them. 🙂
  3. Blanch the coreless ginkgo seeds for 1 minute in hot boiling water.

Once you do all the above steps, your ginkgo nuts are ready to be used.

What you need to prepare Chinese bean curd, ginkgo nuts, and barley sweet soup: dried bean curd, fresh ginkgo nuts, dried pearl barley, egg, pandan leaves, and rock sugar.

What you need to prepare Chinese bean curd, ginkgo nuts, and barley sweet soup: dried bean curd, fresh ginkgo nuts, dried pearl barley, egg, pandan leaves, and rock sugar.

How to cook the sweet soup

Once all the prep work is done, we are ready to cook the soup. Here is how to do it:

  1. Boil the barley. Place water and pearl barley in a soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook for one hour to soften the barley.
  2. Boil the ginkgo nuts. Next, we add ginkgo nuts into the pot and continue simmering the soup for another 30 minutes.
  3. Boil the bean curd. I typically use very thin bean curd sheets to prepare this soup, so this cook in no time at all. Add the bean curd along with pandan leaves, and continue cooking for another 15 minutes.
  4. Add sugar. Next, add the sugar, stir until all the sugar has melted. I love dessert soup that is less sweet, so the stated amount is what I like best. If you prefer sweeter soup, feel free to add more sugar.
  5. Add egg. Stir the soup continuously while we stream in the lightly beaten egg to create an egg drop soup effect. 🙂

And our bean curd, ginkgo nuts, and barley sweet soup are all done! Oh, and do remove the pandan leaves from the soup before serving. This sweet soup can be served hot, room temperature, or even cold. Personally, I love the hot soup version. 🙂

Chinese bean curd, ginkgo nuts, and barley sweet soup (腐竹白果薏米糖水).

Chinese bean curd, ginkgo nuts, and barley sweet soup (腐竹白果薏米糖水).

Other Chinese sweet soup you may want to try

If you are a fan of Chinese sweet soup, I have other recipes that you may want to try:

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Chinese Six Herbs Pork Rib Soup Recipe

Traditional Chinese soups rely on dried Chinese herbs. There are many Chinese soups where almost everything is made up of dried ingredients and only one type of meat is used like chicken or pork.

Take this 六味汤/lak bi theng/six herbs/six flavors soup for example, the soup is cook with pork and a set of six dried herbs. As you can imagine, as long as you have a stash of Chinese dried ingredients stashed in your pantry, you can very easily prepare a pot of delicious Chinese soup. ♥

Ingredients to prepare 六味汤/Chinese six herbs/six flavors soup.

Which Chinese dried ingredients do I need to prepare 六味汤/six flavors soup?

There is a set of Chinese herbs that make up a typical six flavors soup. You will need:

  • Chinese yam (怀(淮)山 – huai shan), if you are familiar with Japanese nagaimo, this is basically the dried version of the same yam.
  • lotus seed (莲子 – lian zi)
  • lily bulb (百合 – bai he)
  • fox nut (芡实 – qian shi)
  • Solomon’s seal rhizome (玉竹 – yu zhu), and
  • dried longan (桂圓/龙眼 – gui yuan/long yan)

Optional add-on ingredients

Aside from the stated six ingredients above, some people love adding even more ingredients to create their own signature herbal mix. If you wish, you can add some of the followings into your soup:

  • job’s tear barley (薏米/薏仁 – yi mi/yi ren), also known as hato mugi in Japanese.
  • apricot kernels (南北杏 – nan bei xing), 南/south is the sweet version, and 北/north is the bitter version. I prefer the south version.
  • ginkgo nuts (白果 – bai guo)
  • goji berries (枸杞 – gou qi)
  • red dates/jujubes (红枣 – hong zao)
  • honey dates (蜜枣 – mi zao)
  • ginger slices

How to prepare the dried ingredients?

Prior to using most Chinese dried ingredients, it is best if you can wash each of the ingredients separately to remove dirt, and then soak each ingredient in separate bowls.

I usually soak the ingredients the night before I plan to cook the soup, but if you forget to do so, even a one hour soak is much better than no soaking time.

Ingredients to prepare 六味汤/Chinese six herbs/six flavors pork ribs soup.

Ingredients to prepare 六味汤/Chinese six herbs/six flavors pork ribs soup.

Six herbs soup (六味汤) = ching po leung (清补涼)

Recently I paid a visit to my neighborhood Chinese grocery store. It is a rather big store and its Chinese herb section is rather complete. As I was trying to replenish my supplies for this soup, I spotted a prepackaged soup called 清补涼- ching po leung, which has almost exactly the same ingredients as my Mom’s typical six herbs soup!

The package is rather small, and it comes with everything I use in my six flavors soup except for dried longan. Instead of dried longan, it has job’s tear barley. When I reached home, I did a bit of research and found out that indeed, ching po leung is another name for six herbs/flavors soup.

So, if you don’t plan to prepare this soup often, or if it’s too much of a hassle to hunt down individual ingredients for this soup, feel free to buy the prepackaged version. You can even buy prepackaged ching po leung soup online.

Ready to be cooked 六味汤/Chinese six herbs/six flavors pork ribs soup.

Ready to be cooked 六味汤/Chinese six herbs/six flavors pork ribs soup.

Sweet version: Six herbs sweet soup (六味糖水)

You can make the sweet version of 六味汤. Basically you will use the exact same set of six dried ingredients, plus your choice of sweeteners (e.g. rock sugar), and any add-ons that you wish. Here is how to do it:

  1. Use the same amount of dried igredients and water as per this recipe.
  2. Boil water and dried ingredients, then cover the pot and simmer until everything is soft and tender. About 2 hours.
  3. Add rock sugar, or other sweetener of your choice. I usually use 100 gram or rock sugar, but do add as much as you need.

The sweet version of this soup can be served hot, at room temperature, or even cold. So this is a nice dessert soup to make year round.

六味汤/Chinese six herbs/six flavors pork ribs soup.

六味汤/Chinese six herbs/six flavors pork ribs soup.

Other Chinese soups you may want to try

If you love classic Chinese soups like this, you may want to try some of my recipes on traditional Chinese soups.

If you prefer Chinese sweet/dessert soups, you may want to try some of these instead:

六味汤/Chinese six herbs/six flavors pork ribs soup.

六味汤/Chinese six herbs/six flavors pork ribs soup.

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Dendeng Age – Spiced Ground Beef Recipe

Dendeng age is Indonesian spiced ground beef that is super handy to have. We enjoy this easy to cook ground beef as topping for nasi gurih, though regular steamed rice can be used too. If you wish, you can even eat it with noodles or pasta. 🙂

Ingredients to prepare Indonesian dendeng age (spiced ground beef).

What is dendeng?

Dendeng is basically Indonesian beef jerky, typically made from thinly sliced meat cooked with a mixture of spices and sugar. The most popular version of Indonesian dendeng is dendeng balado from Padang cuisine, which is super spicy as with typical Padang dishes. Dendeng age, on the other hand, originates from East Java and is mainly sweet. You can still make it a bit spicy by adding a couple of bird-eye chilies if you wish, though keeping it free of chilies means almost everyone can enjoy this dendeng. 🙂

Ingredients to prepare Indonesian dendeng age (spiced ground beef).

Ingredients to prepare Indonesian dendeng age (spiced ground beef).

What do I need to cook Indonesian dendeng age?

To make dendeng age, you will need:

  • ground beef, though you can use thinly sliced beef too for a more traditional approach
  • daun salam (Indonesian bay leaves), omit this if you don’t have them and don’t substitute with regular bay leaves
  • kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
  • palm sugar, or substitute with dark brown sugar
  • salt
  • tamarind
  • coconut milk
  • water
  • kaffir lime leaves
  • shallots
  • garlic
  • galangal
  • coriander powder
  • cumin powder

Once you have all the above ingredients, we can start cooking our dendeng age, like so:

  1. Prepare a spice paste by grinding together shallots, garlic, galangal, coriander, and cumin.
  2. Heat oil in a wok/frying pan over medium-high heat. Sauté spice paste and daun salam (if using) until fragrant. About 5 minutes.
  3. Add ground beef (or thinly sliced beef), cook until no longer pink.
  4. Season with kecap manis, palm sugar, salt, and tamarind juice. Mix well.
  5. Add coconut milk and water, stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the sauce is completely absorbed by the meat and quite dry. Towards the end, you may need to stir quite often to prevent the meat from sticky to the wok/frying pan.

And our dendeng age is done!

Indonesian dendeng age - spiced ground beef.

Indonesian dendeng age – spiced ground beef.

What do I serve with dendeng age?

Dendeng age is enjoyed mainly as topping/side dish for steamed white rice, especially nasi gurih, alongside even more dishes to make a complete Indonesian rice set, such as:

Most people prepare dendeng age ahead of time and let it age for 2-3 days since the flavor improves with time. I usually store my dendeng age in an airtight container in the fridge and simply reheat the amount that I wish to eat with my steamed rice as needed.

Indonesian dendeng age - spiced ground beef.

Indonesian dendeng age – spiced ground beef.

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Sambal Goreng – Fried Chili Paste Recipe

Sambal goreng (fried chili paste) is a basic multi-purpose chili paste that can be the base of many delicious Indonesian spicy dishes, plus it can be enjoyed as is. This chili sauce is especially great with fried food, such as ayam goreng/fried chicken, bakwan/fritters, bakso goreng/fried meatballs, tahu goreng/fried tofu or perkedel/potato fritters.

Ingredients to prepare sambal goreng(fried chili paste): dried red chilies, shallots, garlic, onion, terasi/belacan/shrimp paste, kaffir lime leave, and tamarind.

What do I need to make sambal goreng?

I want my sambal goreng to be full of umami, and for this, I usually use all of these to make my trusted fried chili paste:

  • dried red chilies. My Asian market typically stock chilies from China and from Thailand, the Chinese are usually slightly milder than Thai ones, so choose according to how hot you want your chili paste to be.
  • shallots. I use smaller Chinese/Asian shallots, but regular French shallots are okay too.
  • garlic
  • onion. Choose yellow/white, though, in a pinch, you can use red onion too.
  • terasi/belacan/shrimp paste. This stinky and pungent block of fermented shrimps is the key to umami-rich chili paste, so definitely try to hunt it down. In a really short pinch, you can use fish sauce, but the final chili paste is definitely inferior to the one using terasi/belacan/shrimp paste.
  • kaffir lime leaves. This adds that lovely citrusy fragrance to the chili paste, sub with lime zest in a pinch.
  • tamarind. I usually buy a wet seedless tamarind packet and add water as needed to make my own tamarind paste. In a pinch, you can use tomato paste too, but it will taste slightly different from our traditional chili paste.
How to make sambal goreng: (1) Place shallots, garlic, onion, boiled red chilies, toasted terasi/belacan/shrimp paste, and water in a blender. (2) Blend into a smooth paste. (3) Cook the paste, along with oil, sugar, salt, tamarind, and kaffir lime leaves into sambal goreng (fried chili paste).

How to make sambal goreng: (1) Place shallots, garlic, onion, boiled red chilies, toasted terasi/belacan/shrimp paste, and water in a blender. (2) Blend into a smooth paste. (3) Cook the paste, along with oil, sugar, salt, tamarind, and kaffir lime leaves into sambal goreng (fried chili paste).

How do I make sambal goreng?

Making your very own sambal goreng is quite easy. You will need:

  • a blender
  • a saucepot/a soup pot/a wok

Here is the step-by-step process to cook sambal goreng:

  1. Boil dry chilies in a small pot. Simmer until chilies are soft. This should take about 10 minutes.
  2. Toast terasi/belacan/shrimp paste. The easiest method is using a microwave and cooks for 30 seconds.
  3. Place boiled chilies, shallots, garlic, onion, toasted terasi/belacan/shrimp paste, and water in a blender. Process into a smooth paste.
  4. Transfer the smooth chili paste into a saucepot/soup pot/wok, cook on medium-high until the paste is thicker and drier.
  5. Add oil and kaffir lime leaves to the paste. Stir to mix, and cook for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to a medium-low and cook for another 20 minutes, or until oil starts to separate from the chili paste. We call this phenomenon “pecah minyak” in Indonesian/Malaysian.
  6. Season with salt, sugar, and tamarind juice. Stir until everything is incorporated into the chili paste. You may adjust the amount of sugar/salt to suit your taste.

And our sambal goreng is done! You now have the option to store them for longer storage or enjoy the chili paste immediately.

Sambal goreng - fried chili paste. This recipe yields 4 cups of chili paste, be sure to store them in sterilized jars.

Sambal goreng – fried chili paste. This recipe yields 4 cups of chili paste, be sure to store them in sterilized jars.

How to store and use Indonesian sambal goreng?

This recipe will yield about 4 cups of sambal goreng. I usually divide the chili paste into 4 portions, 1 cup each, and store in sterilized glass jars. Any unopened jar of chili paste should last for up to 2 months in the fridge. Once opened and used, you want to finish it within a week.

How do I use this sambal goreng?

Sambal goreng is basically one of Indonesian handy instant sauce. Arm with this, we can make delicious dishes within minutes. The guide to make a sambal goreng dish is like so:

  • 1/2 cup of sambal goreng/fried chili paste
  • 500 gram (1 lb.) of meat, seafood, vegetables, egg, tofu, or tempeh

Basically, you need to only heat the chili paste in a frying pan/wok, then add your choice of protein/vegetables. Stir, cook, and toss until the protein/vegetables are cooked and coated. If you want some examples of authentic Indonesian dishes made with this handy chili paste, you can try some of these recipes:

Based on these examples, feel free to create your own sambal goreng dishes. Have fun and enjoy. 🙂

Sambal goreng - fried chili paste. Enjoy as is, or use it to cook a variety of easy and delicious sambal goreng dishes.

Sambal goreng – fried chili paste. Enjoy as is, or use it to cook a variety of easy and delicious sambal goreng dishes.

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Sambal Goreng Kentang – Roast Potatoes in Spicy Chili Sauce Recipe

Using my homemade sambal goreng (fried chili paste), I can prepare this lovely and delicious sambal goreng kentang, roast potatoes in spicy chili sauce, with nothing but salt, pepper, olive oil, and sambal goreng. Once you give these spicy roast potatoes a try, I am sure you will want to make this all the time. They are so good and super addictive.

Ingredients to prepare sambal goreng kentang (roast potatoes in spicy chili sauce): homemade sambal goreng (fried chili paste), potatoes, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

What do I need to prepare Indonesian sambal goreng kentang?

First, you will need to prepare a batch of homemade sambal goreng using my previous post. Then, you will need to roast a batch of potatoes using super simple ingredients:

  • potatoes, I use russet, but any potatoes suitable for baking is okay
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

How do I roast potatoes?

  1. Peel the potatoes. I peel my potatoes, but you can roast potatoes with skin on too if you wish. It will actually look more rustic that way. 🙂
  2. Season the potatoes. Add olive oil, salt, and pepper. Cut potatoes into cubes/wedges, about 2″, and gently toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  3. Arrange the potatoes. Transfer potatoes to a baking sheet, for 500 gram (1 lb.), a quarter sheet is enough. If you do a double batch and prepare 1 kilogram (2 lb.), a half-sheet pan is better.
  4. Roast the potatoes. Roast potatoes in a preheated oven of 200 Celsius (400 Fahrenheit) for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. I turn the potatoes about 2 times during roasting so they are evenly roasted.

I don’t have an oven, can I still make this dish?

Yes, you can. Most Indonesians actually prepare the potatoes by deep-frying instead of roasting. So if you are not averse to deep-frying, simply heat a pot of hot oil in a pot and deep fry potato cubes/wedges until golden brown and set aside. You should also be able to fry potatoes in an air-fryer too if you own one.

Top: Toss potatoes in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bottom: roasted potatoes.

Top: Toss potatoes in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bottom: roasted potatoes.

How do I cook sambal goreng kentang?

Once we have a batch of roasted/deep-fried/air-fried potatoes, we are ready to make our sambal goreng kentang. For 500 gram (1 lb.) of potatoes, do the following:

  1. Heat 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) of homemade sambal goreng in a wok/frying pan until bubbles.
  2. Add roasted/fried potatoes into the wok/pan, gently toss until evenly coated. Turn off the heat, transfer to a serving platter, and serve immediately.

Super easy and simple, right? If you wish, you can garnish the sambal goreng kentang with some thin slivers of kaffir lime leaves too. The fresh green leaves add a wonderful pop of color to the orange/red of the spicy potatoes.

Easy Indonesian sambal goreng kentang from simple oven roasted potatoes toss with homemade sambal goreng.

Easy Indonesian sambal goreng kentang from simple oven roasted potatoes toss with homemade sambal goreng.

What other dishes can I make with the handy sambal goreng?

If you love these spicy roast potatoes, you may want to use the same homemade sambal goreng to prepare these dishes:

And feel free to experiment making your own sambal goreng dishes too. Just remember that you will need 1/4 cup of homemade sambal goreng for every 500 gram (1 lb.) of your choice protein/vegetables.

A simple and delicious roast potatoes in spicy chili sauce using homemade sambal goreng (fried chili paste).

A simple and delicious roast potatoes in spicy chili sauce using homemade sambal goreng (fried chili paste).

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